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Film review: princesses take A Royal Night Out on V.E. Day in 1945

Historical farce by Julian Jarrold follows Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret as they join the London-wide celebrations on VE Night.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2015, 4:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2015, 5:58pm

As scrupulously cheerful as it is light on surprises, this historical farce by Julian Jarrold (Brideshead Revisited, Becoming Jane) follows Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret (respectively age 19 and 14, but the latter hardly looking her age), as they take the King’s permission to leave the palace and join the London-wide celebration on VE Night.

Essentially a dusk-till-dawn party film with a paper-thin plot and an open invitation to the audience to exult along, the fictional A Royal Night Out derives its fun from the innocuous shenanigans of its teenage protagonists as they cavort incognito with the masses they’ve hardly ever got to know.

The film’s leading part belongs to the more sensible Elizabeth (Canadian actress Sarah Gadon, a regular in David Cronenberg’s recent films), who stumbles into a  Roman Holiday-like near-romance with AWOL soldier Jack (Jack Reynor), but is otherwise outshined by the comically naïve sister she spends much of the movie tracking down.

As portrayed by British actress Bel Powley, who broke out earlier this year with her star-making turn in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Margaret is a ball of energy who isn’t fazed by the criminals and prostitutes she encounters – primarily because she’s too oblivious to spot a brothel when she sees one.

While the supporting Rupert Everett and Emily Watson get to show their politely appalled faces as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, this lightweight film is really all about the kids. As the spirit remains high and the action frothy, the monarchy’s subtle shift in status on this day stays largely out of mind.

A Royal Night Out opens on September 10